Easter Week 5 Sunday Year A (John 14: 1-12)
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Jesus the Way to the Father Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
Do you still believe in heaven? Well – Yes, but does it feature much in your consciousness? When I was growing up in the early 1950’s, just after the Second World War (after all it was the Second and there was great anxiety about a Third World War), life was tough. With a background of bombing and many people knowing someone who had suffered in the war, preachers had no difficulty in talking about the 4 last things: death, judgment heaven and hell. Heaven, at least, was something to look forward to.
Do we need heaven now we have near-Utopia here? Sky (another word for heaven) Sky TV can offer every goal of every game. Then there is BT TV infinity (what on earth does that mean?). For whatever reason, the consumerist culture, secular values of our age, or our own selfish/ hedonistic tendencies, you could say we have pie on earth. We don’t need to look for pie in the sky. Moreover, isn’t our own religion incarnational? God became human. Isn’t our world charged with the grandeur of God? Why look beyond?
In different ways but in simple words in today’s Gospel, Jesus talks about his return to heaven. He talks about returning to the Father; about there being many rooms in the heavenly palace and going to prepare rooms for the disciples; he talks about returning to take his disciples, including us, with him.
It is in this phrase with him that heaven begins to mean something to me. Speaking to the disciples, Jesus says that “where I am, you may be too”. Jesus wants us to be with him now in this world and hereafter in heaven. Heaven isn’t a place but a stable and secure relationship with Jesus: a relationship that exists now but is open to quality growth and infinite intimacy! Believing and trusting in Christ, we begin “to taste the wisdom of eternity” “I am the Way; I am Truth; I am Life”. “Stay with me. Believe in me/ Trust in me”
Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.
He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
“What things?” he asked.
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.
He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
Cleopas and his companion would always remember how their hearts burned within them as Jesus explained the scriptures to them on the road. Their recent, shattering experiences were now beginning to make sense. They would always remember how their eyes were opened and how they recognised Jesus in the breaking of bread. The opening of the scriptures and the breaking of bread would always go together when they celebrated the thanksgiving meal, the Eucharist. They would never forget that the Scriptures were fulfilled in Jesus. The scriptures we read and hear ultimately only make sense when and because we receive Jesus in Holy Communion.
They are full of joy as they hurried back to Jerusalem. They are now witnesses of the resurrection. They do what witnesses do. They go and tell their story to others. The others, the Eleven assembled with their companions, also have a story to tell: “Yes, it is true. The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon”. Notice the words assembled and companions. The word Church means those who are called together. Companions: those who share bread. The Church is being born.
As we leave mass, we are invited tell our story to others. We may find this a daunting commission; yet we can take heart from today’s Gospel. You might like to think of Cleopas and his companion as patrons of disillusioned, disappointed believers. They trudged away from Jerusalem, downcast. They returned, refreshed and renewed, their hearts overflowing with joyful news. On the road they met God, unmistakably divine; but a God who took time, as much time as was needed, to console, to explain, to instruct, to strengthen and to send them forth on a new mission. God had removed the burden from their shoulders. God specialises in consoling us; especially missionaries.